COLUMBUS: Gambler Jeremy Colvin had a major goal for the grand opening Monday of the Hollywood Casino Columbus, the third Las Vegas-style casino to open in Ohio.
He wanted to play in the inaugural poker game. Not only was he at that first table, he won his first two hands of Texas Hold ’Em.
“I wanted to win that first hand bad,” said Colvin, 36, a programmer from Pataskala who took the day off from work. “I would have gone all in.”
Such was the enthusiasm from gamblers on opening day for the $400 million casino project, which owner Penn National Gaming says is bringing Hollywood glitz and glamour to Central Ohio.
The glitz was there with the sparkling and colorful casino with its art-deco, giant film posters hanging from the ceiling and huge video screens showing movie trailers.
Oscar nominee Ann-Margret, the actress in such films as Bye Bye Birdie and Carnal Knowledge, provided the glamour as she attended the ribbon-cutting VIP event. One of her Bob Mackie dresses — which she joked she can no longer fit into — is on display at the casino.
“One of her great movies was Viva Las Vegas,” Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman said during the opening ceremony. “Well, now I want to tell you, Viva Columbus.”
Opening day also featured showgirls in full headdress and Columbus celebrities Archie Griffin, the Ohio State legend and two-time Heisman Trophy winner, and James “Buster” Douglas, the former heavyweight boxing champ.
The casino was slated to open at noon and there were hundreds of people waiting in line outside in the cold. The doors opened at 11:30 a.m. and gamblers streamed into the building, heading directly to favorite slot machines or table games.
Hollywood Casino Columbus, at 475,000 square feet, is the largest casino in the state. With its Hollywood theme and colorful carpet, it mirrors the ambiance and style of Hollywood Casino Toledo, Penn National’s other full-fledged casino that opened earlier this year.
It has 3,000 slot machines, more than 70 tables for blackjack, three card poker, roulette and other games, and 30 poker tables. There’s also a steakhouse, buffet, grill, bar, stage and event center spread across a single floor.
Parking is free. The casino, located six miles west of downtown on Georgesville Road near Westland Mall, is open 24 hours, seven days a week.
The casino is expected to attract more than 3 million visitors a year.
Hollywood Columbus is the third casino to open in the state since Ohio voters approved allowing four casinos in 2009. It joins the Toledo site and Horseshoe Casino in downtown Cleveland. A Horseshoe casino also is slated to open next spring in Cincinnati.
Second in Columbus
It’s also the second gambling facility to open in Columbus. Scioto Downs Racino, which offers the slots-like video lottery terminals but no table games, opened this year.
Carol McClary, a retired 67-year-old from nearby Alexandria, said she usually goes gambling with a group of friends to Scioto Downs or Wheeling Island.
They came to Hollywood Columbus on Monday to share in the excitement of the casino opening. She was impressed.
“It’s just something to do. Something different. Something exciting,” McClary said. “The atmosphere is wonderful. Having it this close is convenient and it will save me some money for gas.”
Gamblers weren’t the only ones enthusiastic about the opening. Employees were thrilled, as well.
“This is one of the most exciting days,” said Sachin Gupta, a former Wadsworth resident who works in human resources and helped hire the 2,000 employees needed to run the facility. “We’ve been looking forward to this day for months now.”
Penn National Chief Operating Officer Tim Wilmott called it a historic day for the company and all of central Ohio.
“We’re honored to be in the city of Columbus,” he said.
Columbus leaders said they are excited about the casino helping to revitalize the city’s west side. The casino sits where there once was an abandoned factory.
“Polluted. Had no hope. Run down,” Coleman said, describing the site. “How in the world was it ever going to get cleaned up?
“And look at it today. ... Hollywood Casino came in and transformed this abandoned, polluted site into this jewel of a facility that creates income and jobs for thousands and thousands of people in the city of Columbus.”
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or email@example.com.